Eastern Celebrates NCAA Division III Week

Written by Megan Silver-Droesch

Eastern Connecticut State University is celebrating Division III Week from April 2-8. The week is held each year in Division III schools across the country to build greater awareness of Division III athletics.

“Division III Week is a great way to celebrate the positive impact that collegiate sports have on Division III athletes,” said Athletic Director Lori Runksmeier. “Eastern student-athletes are committed to their sports and still find time to achieve academically, build lifelong friendships and contribute to their community. That is really what sport is all about.”

Division III Week opens on April 2 with Warriors@Work, an opportunity for Eastern student-athletes to visit with alumni who played varsity sports while at Eastern. Warriors@Work will be held in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Room in the library at 6 p.m. and will be moderated by Eastern Head Soccer Coach Greg DeVito.

Although the program is open to all Eastern student-athletes, Warriors@Work is intended for current juniors and seniors to participate in a panel discussion with recent graduates. This year’s panelists are Chris Robitaille ’13, men’s basketball; Sarah Froehlich ’16, swimming; Julia DePoi ‘’17, women’s basketball; and Alejandro Tobon ’17, men’s soccer.

Michael Stenko, director of alumni affairs, encourages current student-athletes to engage with this unique opportunity. “Listening to the stories of the alumni panelists and understanding the skills that you have developed as a student-athlete will help you be better prepared when it’s your turn to start your own career after you graduate. There’s so much competition out there for jobs; our students need every advantage they can get.”

Runksmeier encourages the campus community to support Eastern athletes by attending home athletic events scheduled during Division III Week. On April 3, the softball team hosts in-state rival Wesleyan University at 3:30 p.m. The baseball team will follow with their own home game on April 4 against Bridgewater State University at 4 p.m.  On April 6, student-athletes are encouraged to join Athletic Department staff and coaches for coffee in the Athletic Department Conference Room from 9-11 a.m.

Division III Week concludes on April 8 with the annual Student-Athlete Awards Ceremony, which takes place at 7 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room.  This is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of student-athletes as they balance academics, athletics and community engagement. Juniors and seniors with cumulative GPAs above 3.15 will receive the Scholar-Athlete Award. Those who have earned a GPA above 3.5 will receive the Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award and be inducted into the Chi Alpha Sigma Honors Fraternity. Seniors who will graduate during the 2017-18 academic year will be presented with a plaque commemorating their time as Eastern athletes. Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) Charles Chatterton will also present the FAR award to the team that best represents the Division III mission by demonstrating academic achievement and community engagement.

In addition to academic awards, several athletic awards will be presented at the Student-Athlete Award Ceremony.  The Morell Service Award recognizes a student worker who demonstrates outstanding service to the Athletic Department while maintaining good academic standing. The Bonnie Edmondson Female Sports Person of the Year and the Francis Geissler Male Sports Person of the Year are awarded based on “athletic excellence, dedication, community service, loyalty, enthusiasm, integrity, spirit and devotion to the team.”

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit https://www.collegeconsensus.com/school/eastern-connecticut-state-university.

Kathy Manizza, Coach-of-the-Year

Written by Casey Collins

Eastern Connecticut State University cross country coach Kathy Manizza was named Little East Conference (LEC) Cross Country Coach-of-the-Year this fall after leading the Warriors to their first-ever LEC title. Manizza, who resides in Lebanon, has been coaching at the university level for more than 24 years, serving as head coach of Eastern’s cross country and track and field teams for the past six years. She is the first LEC Cross Country Coach-of-the-Year in Eastern’s history.

At this year’s LEC championships, the Warriors found themselves matched up against a daunting field of competitors. Eastern’s main rival, Keene State College, entered the championship as the 17-time defending conference champions. In the end, Eastern placed all five of its scoring runners within the top 14 finishers, out of a seven-team field from seven schools. As a result, the Warriors edged out second-place Plymouth State University by a mere eight points to take home the championship.

“This was my dream team,” said Manizza. “We had been building this team for the past five years, and we had an outside chance of winning the conference last year. We knew that it was a small chance, but we also knew that we had the talent to do it.”

Junior Christina Gosselin has been running for Manizza for the past three years. When asked about her head coach she said, “Coach Manizza has been a great mentor and coach to me. Not only has she helped me become a stronger runner, but she has led our team to achieve success and many accomplishments over the year.”

Sophomore Samara Johnson just concluded her first year running on the team, and said of her coach: “Coach Manizza is always supportive, encouraging and pushing us to do our absolute best. If anyone deserves coach-of-the-year, it’s certainly her.”

Eastern Hosts 7th Marrow Drive

University Partners with DeCasanova to Find Life-Saving Matches

•Members of the men's soccer team with Coach DeVido (left) and Willy the Warrior

Members of the men’s soccer team with Coach DeVido (left) and Willy the Warrior

 Written by Michael Rouleau

In its ongoing support for people with life-threatening blood diseases, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its seventh marrow registry on Dec. 6. Organized by the men’s soccer team, 140 people were registered into the “Be The Match” database – the largest marrow registry in the world – bringing Eastern’s total to 1,650 registrants over the past five years.

The campus’s first marrow drive occurred in 2012, when student and soccer player Jon DeCasanova was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and lymphatic cancer. DeCasanova, a senior at the time, was given less than a one-percent chance of survival by some doctors.

Jon DeCasanova '16 explains the registration process

Jon DeCasanova ’16 explains the registration process

“One of the treatments I needed was a marrow transplant,” said DeCasanova ’17, who graduated last spring and now works for the Rhode Island Blood Center. In his role as an assistant account executive, DeCasanova helps run Be The Match events throughout the region. “I was able to receive a stem cell transplant, which is a science that we’re supporting here today. It’s a science that saved my life.”

In the past five years, 20 Eastern registrants have made life-saving donations to people with rare blood diseases – a rate much greater than the national average of one in 300 being selected as a best possible donor, and one in 430 actually going through with the procedure.

People identified as matches have two options for donating. One method is via a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, a nonsurgical procedure similar to giving blood. The other method is via a bone marrow donation, a surgical procedure in which bone marrow is extracted directly from the pelvic bone.

On the day of the event, members of the soccer team spread throughout campus, asking everyone they saw if they’re willing to help save a life. They even recruited the school’s mascot, Willy the Warrior. “Without the promotion of the team, there wouldn’t be as much success as there is,” said Greg DeVito, head coach, who reports the team volunteered approximately 70 hours in advance and during the event. “It’s an honor to see the team use their free time to help out a good cause.”

Volunteer Lauren Landry '20 takes a minute between mouth swabs for a photo.

Volunteer Lauren Landry ’20 takes a minute between mouth swabs for a photo.

“Most current students weren’t here in 2012, so they don’t quite understand what it did to this campus,” said DeCasanova of his diagnosis, remembering the fear and outpouring of support across the Eastern community. “Most people don’t experience cancer at such a young age; I was only 20 years old at the time. None of us really understood what was going on.”

While the men’s soccer team spearheads the effort with Be The Match, several other student organizations help the event run smoothly. Among them this year were the Social Work Club and Love Your Melon, a nonprofit organization with a chapter on campus that is focused on pediatric cancer. Among other tasks, student volunteers prescreened interested donors for eligibility – using a questionnaire concerning general health – and administered mouth swabs.

“I don’t get emotional too much these days,” said DeCasanova, “but when it comes to this event and Eastern in general, and the family we have here, it’s amazing… the passion everyone still has for this event, and their continuing support, not only for me, but for all the patients out there that need matches.”

With DeCasanova’s story and Eastern’s support, the soccer team won the 2016 National Association of D3 Athletic Directors Community Engagement Award. In 2014, the University was honored with the National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match Awareness Award. Representatives from the organization have commented that Eastern outperforms schools with much larger student populations.

“It’s not about me anymore. My life is saved,” concluded DeCasanova, adding that there are more than 70 diseases that are curable via marrow transplants. “It’s about all the other patients out there who are still looking for matches.”

Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,389 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 10.

For the past 33 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Eastern Named a ‘Great College to Work For’ for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “Those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”


About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

Eastern Warriors Win Top Conference Honors On and Off the Field

Written by Ed Osborn

•Men's basketball player Tarchee Brown '18 and women's volleyball player McKenzie Maneggia '20 pose with Willi the Warrior and the two LEC Cups

Men’s basketball player Tarchee Brown ’18 and women’s volleyball player McKenzie Maneggia ’20 pose with Willi the Warrior and the two LEC Cups

WILLIMANTIC, CT (07/06/2017) For the first time, student-athletes at Eastern Connecticut State University have won the Little East Conference’s (LEC) two top honors – the Presidents’ Cup and the Commissioner’s Cup – in the same year.

For the third year in a row, Eastern was awarded the LEC Presidents’ Cup for overall academic performance during the 2016-17 academic year. In addition, for the first time in its 17-year existence, the LEC’s Commissioner’s Cup, awarded for the most successful athletic program in the conference, was won by Eastern.

The LEC Presidents’ Cup measures the highest cumulative grade point average of all eight institutions in the conference. Each institution calculates the cumulative grade point average for all its student-athletes who competed in the league’s 19 championship-sponsored sports. The Eastern Warriors registered a cumulative grade point average of 3.12, narrowly beating out Keene State College and Plymouth State University. The women’s cross country and soccer teams performed the best among all Eastern teams with 3.43 cumulative GPAs.

During the year, Eastern athletes achieved LEC All-Academic recognition (minimum GPA of 3.30) a total of 118 times – 47 in six fall programs, 36 in six spring programs, and 35 in five winter programs. Additionally, a record 68 Eastern student-athletes earned an E-Club Scholar-Athlete Award, 38 of them receiving an Outstanding (cumulative 3.50+) Scholar-Athlete Award.

The Little East Conference began awarding the Presidents’ Cup following the 2009-10 academic year, and this year Eastern became the first school to win four LEC Presidents’ Cups (2010, 2015-17).

“I congratulate the scholar-athletes of Eastern Connecticut State University for earning three consecutive Little East Conference Presidents’ Cups, the LEC’s highest academic award, as well as earning the institution’s first-ever Commissioner’s Cup in the same academic year,” said LEC Commissioner Cora H. Crumley. “This prestigious award clearly demonstrates intercollegiate athletics’ ability to enhance the academic mission of our member institutions. The Warriors’ staff is to be commended for their role in facilitating their student-athletes’ achievements.”

Eastern is the first program since 2012-13 to win the Little East Conference’s top honors in the same year. “It is gratifying to win both the Commissioner’s Cup and the President’s Cup for the performances of our student-athletes,” said Lori Runksmeier, Eastern’s director of athletics. “Division III is all about balance, and I am so proud that Eastern could achieve these results on the field and in the classroom.”

In winning its first Commissioner’s Cup, Eastern won five LEC regular-season titles and one LEC tournament championship in 2016-17, with 9 Eastern teams in the ten LEC sports that keep regular season standings finishing fourth or higher and two teams going undefeated in LEC regular-season play. Moreover, nine individuals won a major LEC award (Player, Rookie or Coach-of-the-Year) and 114 were named to All-LEC teams.

Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

Hartford, CT — Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 127th Commencement exercises to “treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education . . . once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future.”

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 17, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.

Graham also told the graduates, “Throughout our history, American leaders have stood up in times of peril — during the American Revolution, during the Civil War, confronting Hitler, standing up to Communism, and advancing civil and women’s rights.  At some time in your life, you will be asked to stand up for what is right, and I know you will answer the call.” Noting that the American political system has worked very well for more than 200 years, Graham said, “Future politicians will say, ‘I will fight for you.’  That’s fine. But ask them, ‘What will you do when you are done fighting?’”

Commencement 2017 Crowd_7167The commencement speaker also received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. Graham is chairman of Graham Holdings Co., formerly the Washington Post Co. A graduate of Harvard College, he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an information specialist with the First Cavalry Division from 1967-68.  He later served as a patrolman on the Washington, D.C., police force before joining the staff at the Washington Post in 1971 as a reporter.  Graham assumed the position of publisher of the Washington Post in 1979, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katherine Graham, who led the newspaper following her husband Philip Graham’s passing in 1963. In 1991, Donald Graham took over leadership as chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.

Commencement 2017 Nunez and BabyIn 2013, Graham and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, joined Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Henry R. Munoz III, chairman of Munoz & Company, to co-found TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrant youth get access to a college education. Since its founding, TheDream.US has raised $91 million in scholarship funds, providing financial support to 1,700 college students nationwide. Graham also co-founded and served as chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program; he remains a member of the board.  The program has helped double the number of District of Columbia public high school students going on to college and has helped triple the number graduating from college.

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Commencement 2017 BEST BalloonNunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways,  first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with “. . . a highly desired set of skills” sought by the majority of American employers — “analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.” Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Waving BESTLastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to “. . . exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy.”

Commencement 2017 Four LadiesNoting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern’s president went on to say, “Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else.  Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Commencement 2017 Student PresidentSenior Class President Abigail Caselli presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2017 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. “To a room filled with the next great doctors, nurses, actors and actresses, genetic counselors, presidents of universities, human resource managers and professors, just to name a few of the success stories to be written about my fellow graduates, I encourage you to use the opportunities that Eastern has given you and make the world around you better.  As someone once said, ‘Service is the highest form of leadership.’ May each of you find and share that leadership within you.”

Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Today is a significant milestone for you,” he said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and applaud the many sacrifices you have made to get here. Your journey to this point was not easy, but for that reason, it is so much more satisfying. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference.”Commencement 2017 SelfiesMark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, also spoke to the graduates. “You have come a very long way since the first day you arrived at Eastern,” said Ojakian. “Life will take you in many different directions after you leave here tonight. The road in front of you is undefined. But I am hopeful that our state and our nation will be in a better place — as you become your future.”Commencement 2017 Christina

Commencement 2017 Foot GuardFrom the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions.

Commencemetn 2017 SingersUniversity Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Abigail Perreira and Kristin Uschkureit sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Leigha Grushkin gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Peter Drzewiecki was recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

MEDIA ADVISORY: 300 Students to Participate in Eastern Research Conference

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The Third Annual CREATE Conference at Eastern Connecticut State University will take place this Friday, April 21, from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier conference showcasing student research and creative activity.

All activities take place in the Student Center except for an exhibit of student art taking place in room 223 of the Wood Support Services Center from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

From art to zoology, Shakespeare to social media, tax law to terrorism, Eastern students of all majors explore important concepts and produce exemplary research and creative work; the culmination of their work this academic year will be on display at CREATE. The one-day conference will feature more than 300 Eastern undergraduates, who will present talks, professional posters, live music, dance performances, art and photography exhibits, documentary films and panel discussions.

“CREATE is a reaffirmation of Eastern’s commitment to undergraduate research as Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Niti Pandey, business administration professor and conference co-chair. Reflecting on this year’s record number of participants, she added, “There is a wonderful variety of presentations and performances for people to see. CREATE 2017 showcases the hard work and talent of our students and demonstrates the dedication of their faculty mentors. We look forward to an excellent event!”

Members of the Eastern campus and surrounding communities are invited to browse the conference’s many cultural and academic offerings. “CREATE will be a superb learning experience for all who participate and a true celebration of our student’s achievements,” said Patricia Szczys, biology professor and conference co-chair.

Registration takes place at 8:15 a.m. in the Student Center Café, and the opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Those interested in the event but unable to attend the whole conference can view the schedule and presentation details at www.easternct.edu/create. Ample parking is available in the University’s two parking garages.

NOTE TO NEWS MEDIA:  The news media is invited to attend and cover the conference. This event is a marvelous collection of academic presentations, plays, musical performances, art on exhibit, and other student work — more than 300 students in all. Students and faculty mentors are available for interviews, and there will be host of photography opportunities. Come and see how undergraduates at Eastern are doing research commonly found only in graduate programs at larger institutions!

Making a Splash in Windham: The Special Olympics and Eastern


A Special Olympics athlete competes in the butterfly stroke at the Windham Invitational Special Olympics Swim Meet.  Photo by Eastern graduate Linda Ouellette ’89

Written by Michael Rouleau

When Charlie Wynn was a new chemistry professor at Eastern Connecticut State University in 1979, he and a group of competitive swimmers were in the campus swimming pool when they received an unexpected proposition. They were asked to volunteer as timers for Windham’s first Special Olympics swim meet. Now, 38 years later, Wynn and many more members of the Eastern campus community continue to support the annual event, which has become a community tradition and source of pride.

“Volunteers are the backbone of the Windham Invitational Special Olympics Swim Meet,” said Wynn, who has served as meet director for 23 years. In its inaugural event, the meet had 40 swimmers. Today, more than 200 swimmers compete from seven teams across Connecticut and four from Massachusetts.

More than 350 volunteers were on hand at the March 11, 2017, event, with nearly one-third of them being members of the Eastern campus community. Students, alumni, faculty and staff were paired with Special Olympics athletes as they navigated the day of competition, volunteered as lifeguards, or helped out with sports clinics and other activities.


A fleet of Eastern volunteers, alongside State Representative Susan Johnson (middle, wearing gray), poses for a group photo in the Windham High School gymnasium. Photo credit Linda Ouellette ’89

The Windham Invitational — held annually at Windham High School — is a regional qualifying meet. Those with the best times move on to Connecticut’s Special Olympics summer games. But winning and qualifying is not what the Special Olympics is about. The official oath reads: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”


Meet Director Charlie Wynn addresses the crowd during the 38th Annual Windham Invitational opening ceremony.  Photo by Linda Ouellette ’89

“That really says a lot,” said Wynn. “Not everybody wins, at any level, with any kind of ability. But what we should expect of ourselves is the best we can do, and we should be proud of reaching the level that we are capable of. That, I would say, is an important message for all athletes.”

Special Olympics swimmers compete in a variety of strokes — freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke — but what best embodies the meet’s oath are its less expected races. “We have events in the water for people who can’t swim,” said Wynn. “In the shallow end of the pool, they compete in walking races from side to side. Those who aren’t able to walk compete in floating races and vigorously paddle along the water in flotation devices.”

Wynn continued, “They are Special Olympians, and those races are as competitive and enthusiastically watched as the regular races.” The athletes in these competitions are awarded the same medals and ribbons as other winning athletes.

Much of the day’s fun occurs outside of the pool. For the past several years, Eastern’s Greg Kane, professor of kinesiology and physical education (KPE), has had his students lead sports clinics in basketball, bowling, volleyball and more. “We want to provide a fun atmosphere in which participants can interact without the pressure of competition,” said Kane.

sport clinic

A Special Olympics athlete participates in a bowling clinic put on by Eastern KPE students.

Speaking to the educational impact for his students, he added: “Working with individuals who are different from ourselves can be intimidating. It forces students to adapt their knowledge of leadership and sport to populations that they may never have worked with in the past. This is the nexus of critical thinking, content knowledge and experiential learning. This Special Olympics swim meet remains a highlight of the year for my students.”

The Eastern community’s Special Olympics involvement extends beyond this annual swim meet. Adi DeVivo ’12 is the volunteer coordinator of the Windham Invitational as well as coach of the local Windham Waves Special Olympics swim team.

“I get to experience many Special Olympics events every year, but there’s something different about the Windham swim meet,” said DeVivo. “The energy and the fact that every aspect of the meet is coordinated by volunteers creates an amazing atmosphere. There’s a whole lot of people in it for the right reasons who walk away with wonderful memories and a stronger sense of community.”

Both the meet and the local swim team are supported by “Best Buddies,” a student organization at Eastern focused on building friendships between students and people with disabilities. “Having such involvement from Eastern students shows just how inclusive our campus is,” said Julia DeVivo ’19, a swim meet volunteer of five years who double majors in early childhood education and psychology. “I love how caring our campus is and how willing we are to give back to the community.”

Volunteer lifeguard Matthew Sanetrik ’20, a social work major, is drawn to the local Special Olympics for a personal reason. “I made the decision to start volunteering because I have a twin brother with a disability,” he said. “Often times when you grow up with a sibling in a wheel chair, you find ways to incorporate their ability level and adapt activities to allow them to participate.”


Special Olympians are awarded medals after a swimming competition. Photo by Linda Ouellette ’89

Being a lifeguard on the pool deck all day, Sanetrik sees the most intimate moments of the athletes, before, during and after competition. “You see them step up, excited or nervous, and after the race, you see immediately how proud they are of their efforts as they receive high-fives on their way to the awards.”

Of all the feel-good moments that happen during a Special Olympics competition, something that stands out for many is the audience. “The athlete who finishes last gets the loudest applause,” said Sanetrik, “because what truly matters is the attempt.”

“The crowd goes crazy for the last swimmer,” echoed Wynn. “You have to see it. The first time, I choked up.”